For teacher Lance Powell, the wilderness provides a chance to bond with students

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on July 27, 2010

Menlo Atherton High School teacher Lance Powell

For some  high school teachers, out of the classroom means escape from the grind of teaching, not to mention the kids themselves. Not so for Menlo-Atherton teacher Lance Powell. He enjoys plunging into the woods, leading a group of his young charges on backpacking trips through a program sponsored by Bay Area Wilderness Training.

“I work in the Academy program at M-A,” he says, “and these are the kids I want to bond with. Once you’ve backpacked with kids, you get to know them so much better.”

Lance became familiar with BAWT some years ago when he participated in the non-profit group’s leadership training. “To be honest, I was pretty experienced and didn’t think I really needed the training,” he recalls. “But BAWT also offers equipment and I needed the gear.

M-A kids on BAWT hike“Turns out the training was really awesome and worthwhile. Not only did I learn a lot but I got the gear. And I got connected to a great group of people, including some amazing chaperons for the trip.”

Lance teaches biology and environmental chemistry as part of M-A’s Academy program. This school-within-a- school is made up of about 130 students who navigate the day in clusters, instructed by a team of five teachers.

“I’m at M-A because of Matt Zito,” says Lance of the school’s prinicipal. “I never thought I’d teach at a big high school, but he recruited the Academy team. He’s as competent as they come and is very passionate about what he’s doing at the school.”

The camping trips are optional for Academy kids. “Many of these kids have never had a wilderness experience – to some camping is sleeping in a car. These trips really bring the kids together in a great way.”

Lance has also been certified through BAWT as a wilderness first responder and was trained in wilderness first aid. “The truth is that I’m more likely to administer first aid to a kid in one of my science classes than on a backpacking trip.”

Group photo of kids on camping trip by Romero Miraflor; photo of Lance Powell on trip by Thom Golia.

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